Last Thursday, Harvard Law Library and Ravel Law announced a partnership they call “Free the Law.” In short, Harvard is digitizing their entire library of U.S. Case Law, which includes materials going back to pre-revolutionary days, and putting them into Ravel’s system, to be available free of charge.
The project is ambitious, and won’t be done overnight — even scanning half a million pages a week, they’re not expecting to have it fully developed for 2 years. However, it also provides a great opportunity for researchers everywhere to have access to case law. They’ve also agreed to release the full database for bulk use (that is, data mining and so on) within 8 years.
Is this a game-changer? Yes, and no. Google Scholar already has a free database of modern case law (since 1960 for most courts, and going back as far as 1791 for some) that anyone with an internet connection can search as easily as using Google, so from that respect, this really only fills the historical gap. Moreover, those older cases, especially those prior to the Great Depression, are more useful to academics than to practitioners or citizens in general, as they become attenuated from the modern day.
However, the fact that Harvard is partnering with Ravel makes this more interesting to me. Ravel is a relatively new platform that is focused on performing analytics on cases, which they use to connect cases together and highlighting the significant passages of cases. The data from this pool of case law will greatly improve the effectiveness and value of what Ravel provides, and in turn, will add value to the case law in the system. The open availability of the database also means that intrepid data hounds will be able to conduct extensive analysis of U.S. case law that was hampered by the difficulty of finding it all in a single place.
The other caveat I’ll toss out is that the project is only for case law. Most new law in the US is either statutes or administrative regulations, and those appear to be absent from this project (at least, for now). However, I’m still excited to get access to the treasure trove of case law data and to see what the data team at Ravel is able to do with it.
Tax Notes is the Law Library’s newest database. It is a current awareness and tax research database. This product will help you stay on top of current tax news. It is easy and quick to sign-up. Here are the instructions*:
Please go to http://www.taxnotes.com to sign on to the new site. For the initial sign-in, you need to be within your company’s/university’s IP range.
Please follow these steps:
- Please go to http://www.taxnotes.com, and click SIGN IN at the top right.
- In the username field, please enter your Texas Tech University e-mail address. Click Next.
- On the next screen, please click on the blue “Register Here” link.
- You’ll be taken to a Profile page. Enter your name and Texas Tech University e-mail address.
- Choose a password and enter it.
- When you’ve finished the Profile, click SAVE CHANGES.
- You’ll go to the Tax Notes webpage, where you can sign in with your username Texas Tech University and the password you chose.
If you have any problems signing up or setting preferences, please contact Marin Dell (email@example.com) for assistance.
*[NOTE: The user must be a Texas Tech University faculty, student or staff to access.]
In May 2014, the NYTimes wrote about the Supreme Court continuing to edit opinions after release. Earlier this month, an NYTimes article noted that SCOTUS is now disclosing after-the-fact changes to its opinions.
The move on editing is a major development. Though changes in the court’s opinions after they are issued are common, the court has only very seldom acknowledged them. Many of the changes fix spelling or factual errors. Others are more substantial, amending or withdrawing legal conclusions.
Starting this term, a court statement said, “post-release edits to slip opinions on the court’s website will be highlighted and the date they occur will be noted.” The court’s website includes sample opinions to show how all of this will work. “The location of a revision will be highlighted in the opinion,” the statement said. “When a cursor is placed over a highlighted section, a dialogue box will open to show both old and new text.”
And in other wonderful news, SCOTUS is also addressing the problem of link rot in opinions.
The Court said it would also address what it called “the problem of ‘link rot,’ where Internet material cited in court opinions may change or cease to exist.” The Court will now collect and post the materials it links to on a dedicated page on its site.
BAR/BRI has released the first of what it intends to be an annual survey on the “State of the Legal Field.” The objective is to “evaluate industry perceptions about the state of the legal field,” establishing benchmarks related to student practice readiness, employment expectations, employment trends, and law degree return on investment. Faculty, law students, and practitioners were surveyed.
As one law library director noted, “[m]ost telling for [law librarians], I think, is “key finding #2.” Key finding number 2 of the report noted that:
“Faculty placed very little importance on research, with just 4 percent citing it as the most important skill for recent law school graduates. In contrast, 18 percent of attorneys named research the most important skill a new lawyer should possess.
- Newer attorneys spend more than 30% of their time doing legal research
- Approximately 50% of associates think legal research should be a larger part of the law school curriculum
Robert Ambrogi over at LawSites just reported that Fastcase has acquired Loislaw.
LoisLaw subscribers began receiving notices over the weekend informing them of the news. The letter stated that WK will sunset the Loislaw product effective Nov. 30, and that “we are collaborating with Fastcase so they can offer comparable subscription plans on the Fastcase platform, including Loislaw treatise libraries, at the same or lower prices as your current Loislaw subscription.”
Reached by phone, Fastcase CEO Ed Walters confirmed the acquisition. He said that it was an assets-only purchase that includes the Loislaw brand and domain name and that will move Loislaw’s subscribers to Fastcase. He declined to disclose the purchase price.
Wolters Kluwer … is increasingly focusing its products on the larger-firm market and on highly regulated and specialized areas of law such as corporate finance, securities, tax, banking and health. Given that focus, it no longer makes much sense for the company to spend resources on a product such as Loislaw that does not fit with its market.
Subscribers will be migrated to the Fastcase service sometime before Nov. 30, when the current Loislaw site will be shut down. Existing subscriptions will be grandfathered at their current or better prices, Walters told me.
This seems like a great move by Fastcase to improve its platform by including the substantial resources available through Loislaw — after all, Loislaw was one of the first databases geared toward small firms with a lower price tag than WEXIS.